Case: Brown v. Lexington County

3:17-cv-01426 | U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina

Filed Date: June 1, 2017

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On June 1, 2017, nine indigent residents of South Carolina filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The plaintiffs sued Lexington County, South Carolina, the Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington County, and the Associate Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington County all under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU, sought declaratory, injunctive, and…

On June 1, 2017, nine indigent residents of South Carolina filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The plaintiffs sued Lexington County, South Carolina, the Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington County, and the Associate Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes of the Summary Courts in Lexington County all under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU, sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief, as well as attorneys' fees and costs. The case was assigned to District Judge Margaret B. Seymour and referred to Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had created a modern-day debtors' prison through a system that routinely deprived indigent people of their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Under what was called the Default Payment Policy, Lexington County magistrate courts routinely ordered the arrest and jailing of people who could not afford to make payments toward court fines and fees in traffic and misdemeanor criminal cases. When an indigent person was unable to pay in full at sentencing, the magistrate court imposed a payment plan that required steep monthly payments that were usually beyond the individual's financial means. According to the plaintiffs, if the indigent person failed to pay, the magistrate court ordered law enforcement to arrest and jail the individual. The plaintiffs claimed that, by regularly jailing indigent persons despite their inability to pay court fines and fees, the defendants had violated the plaintiffs' rights under the Fourth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, as well as the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On July 21, 2017, the plaintiffs moved to certify a class consisting of "[a]ll indigent people who currently owe, or in the future will owe, fines, fees, court costs, assessments, or restitution in cases handled by Lexington County magistrate courts."

On August 18, 2017, the defendants moved for summary judgment regarding the plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief on the grounds that such claims were either moot or would require intervention by the district court in ongoing state criminal proceedings. Later, the defendants filed a supplemental motion, adding the argument that such claims by the plaintiffs had been rendered moot by a Memorandum to Magistrates and Municipal Judges that Chief Judge Donald W. Beatty issued on September 15, 2017.

The September 2017 memorandum addressed the right to counsel by noting that "[a]ll defendants facing criminal charges that carry the possibility of imprisonment must be informed of their right to counsel and, if indigent, their right to court-appointed counsel prior to proceeding with trial." The defendants claimed that this sentence cured any concern the plaintiffs may have had with regard to the right to counsel in situations carrying the possibility of imprisonment.

On October 19, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding two plaintiffs and one defendant with additional details in the factual allegations to accommodate the new parties.

On October 31, 2017, the defendants moved for summary judgment of the damage claims, arguing that the claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, judicial immunity, and legislative immunity. The defendants also argued that as a matter of law, no defendant had the legal authority to create the policies alleged by the plaintiffs.

On February 5, 2018, Magistrate Judge Hodges filed a report and recommendation regarding the two motions for summary judgment and the motion to certify class. She recommended that the court deny the plaintiff's motion to certify class, grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to declaratory and injunctive relief and deny the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the plaintiffs' damages claim against Lexington County for failure to afford counsel on grounds of mootness based on a memorandum from the South Carolina Supreme Court and grant the motion as to all other claims.

Partially agreeing with Judge Hodges, Judge Seymour denied the motion to certify the class without prejudice on March 29, 2018 because it relied on claims for prospective relief. Contrary to the recommendation, however, the court denied both motions for summary judgment, finding that there were genuine issues of material fact. 2018 WL 1556189.

In response to the court's order, the plaintiffs filed a second motion to certify the class on April 17, 2018 and the defendants filed a motion for reconsideration as to the denials of summary judgment on April 24, 2018. Without first waiting for a ruling on their motion, the defendants appealed the denial of the two motions for summary judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Before the Fourth Circuit could rule on the summary judgment motions, Judge Seymour denied the defendants' motions for reconsideration on July 10, 2018, rejecting the defendant's argument that the claims were now moot. After several motions and conferences in the fall, Judge Seymour referred the case to mediation under the guidance of Judge Hodges on October 19, 2018. Upon moving the case to mediation, Judge Seymour dismissed the motion for class certification without prejudice, granting the plaintiffs' leave to refile should mediation fail.

During mediation negotiation, a Fourth Circuit panel composed of Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson, Diana Gribbon Motz, and Allyson K. Duncan found that they lacked jurisdiction to provide judgment on the defendant's interlocutory appeals on the summary judgment motions on January 23, 2019. They found that the record before them did not give them the opportunity to tell if the defendants were eligible for immunity, which was the subject of the appeal, and they remanded the case to the District Court to resolve this question of material fact.

Mediation is ongoing as of June 2020.

Summary Authors

Jake Parker (6/13/2018)

Ellen Aldin (6/1/2020)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6351145/parties/brown-v-lexington-county-south-carolina/


Judge(s)

Duncan, Allyson Kay (North Carolina)

Hodges, Shiva V (South Carolina)

Seymour, Margaret B. (South Carolina)

Wilkinson, James Harvie III (Virginia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Choudhury, Nusrat Jahan (New York)

Dunn, Susan K. (South Carolina)

Marshall, Toby James (Washington)

Nusser, Eric (Washington)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Davidson, William Henry II (South Carolina)

Woodington, Kenneth P. (South Carolina)

Judge(s)

Duncan, Allyson Kay (North Carolina)

Hodges, Shiva V (South Carolina)

Seymour, Margaret B. (South Carolina)

Wilkinson, James Harvie III (Virginia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Choudhury, Nusrat Jahan (New York)

Dunn, Susan K. (South Carolina)

Marshall, Toby James (Washington)

Nusser, Eric (Washington)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Davidson, William Henry II (South Carolina)

Woodington, Kenneth P. (South Carolina)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Snodgrass, Carl Gavin (New York)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [PACER]

June 4, 2020 Docket
1

Class Action Complaint

June 1, 2017 Complaint
48

Class Action Second Amended Complaint

Oct. 19, 2017 Complaint
74

Report and Recommendation

2018 WL 3120676

Feb. 5, 2018 Magistrate Report/Recommendation
84

Opinion and Order

2018 WL 1556189

March 29, 2018 Order/Opinion
107

Opinion and Order

2018 WL 3359019

July 10, 2018 Order/Opinion
41

Opinion

Brown v. Reinhart

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

760 Fed.Appx. 175

Jan. 23, 2019 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Brown v. Lexington County, et al

American Civil Liberties Union

In the latest front in the nationwide fight against debtors' prisons, on June 1, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit challenging the illegal arrest and incarceration of p… July 22, 2017 https://www.aclu.org/cases/brown-v-lexington-county-et-al#:~:text=In%20Brown%20v.,from%20unreasonable%20searches%20and%20seizures

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6351145/brown-v-lexington-county-south-carolina/

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link
1

Complaint

June 1, 2017 PACER
3

Local Rule 26.01 Answers to Interrogatories

June 1, 2017 PACER
4

Summons Issued

June 2, 2017 PACER
5

Motion to Certify Class

June 2, 2017 PACER
6

Motion to Appear Pro Hac Vice

June 5, 2017 PACER
7

Additional Attachments to Main Document

June 5, 2017 PACER
8

Motion to Appear Pro Hac Vice

June 8, 2017 PACER
9

Motion to Appear Pro Hac Vice

June 8, 2017 PACER
10

Order

June 27, 2017 PACER
12

Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply

July 7, 2017 PACER
13

Order

July 7, 2017 PACER
14

Notice of Appearance

July 7, 2017 PACER
15

Answer to Complaint

July 18, 2017 PACER
16

Answer to Complaint

July 19, 2017 PACER
17

Answer to Complaint

July 19, 2017 PACER
18

Answer to Complaint

July 19, 2017 PACER
19

Scheduling Order

July 20, 2017 PACER
20

Amended Complaint

July 21, 2017 PACER
21

Motion to Certify Class

July 21, 2017 PACER
22

Motion for Extension of Time to File Answer

July 26, 2017 PACER
23

Order

July 27, 2017 PACER
24

Answer to Amended Complaint

Aug. 17, 2017 PACER
25

Answer to Amended Complaint

Aug. 17, 2017 PACER
26

Answer to Amended Complaint

Aug. 17, 2017 PACER
27

Answer to Amended Complaint

Aug. 17, 2017 PACER
28

Local Rule 26.01 Answers to Interrogatories

Aug. 17, 2017 PACER
29

Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

Aug. 18, 2017 PACER
30

Response in Opposition to Motion

Aug. 18, 2017 PACER
31

Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply

Aug. 23, 2017 PACER
32

Rule 26(f) Report

Aug. 23, 2017 PACER
33

Order

Aug. 23, 2017 PACER
34

Scheduling Order

Aug. 24, 2017 PACER
35

Response in Opposition to Motion

Sept. 11, 2017 PACER
36

Reply to Response to Motion

Sept. 11, 2017 PACER
37

Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply

Sept. 14, 2017 PACER
38

Order

Sept. 14, 2017 PACER
39

Reply to Response to Motion

Sept. 22, 2017 PACER
40

Motion for Summary Judgment

Sept. 22, 2017 PACER
41

Motion for Extension of Time

Sept. 29, 2017 PACER
42

Order

Sept. 29, 2017 PACER
43

Response in Opposition to Motion

Oct. 13, 2017 PACER
44

Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply

Oct. 18, 2017 PACER
45

Order

Oct. 18, 2017 PACER
46

Motion to Amend/Correct

Oct. 18, 2017 PACER
47

Order

Oct. 19, 2017 PACER
48

Amended Complaint

Oct. 19, 2017 PACER
49

Motion to Stay

Oct. 30, 2017 PACER
50

Motion for Summary Judgment

Oct. 31, 2017 PACER
51

Motion to Stay

Oct. 31, 2017 PACER
52

Answer to Amended Complaint

Nov. 1, 2017 PACER
53

Answer to Amended Complaint

Nov. 1, 2017 PACER
54

Answer to Amended Complaint

Nov. 1, 2017 PACER
55

Answer to Amended Complaint

Nov. 2, 2017 PACER
56

Motion for Extension of Time

Nov. 7, 2017 PACER
57

Order

Nov. 7, 2017 PACER
58

Response in Opposition to Motion

Nov. 13, 2017 PACER
59

Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages

Nov. 17, 2017 PACER
60

Order

Nov. 17, 2017 PACER
61

Reply to Response to Motion

Nov. 20, 2017 PACER
62

Withdrawal of Motions

Nov. 21, 2017 PACER
64

Withdrawal of Motions

Nov. 22, 2017 PACER
66

Response in Opposition to Motion

Nov. 29, 2017 PACER
67

Response in Opposition to Motion

Nov. 29, 2017 PACER
68

Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages

Dec. 8, 2017 PACER
69

Order

Dec. 8, 2017 PACER
70

Reply to Response to Motion

Dec. 13, 2017 PACER
71

Motion to Stay

Jan. 5, 2018 PACER
72

Order

Jan. 8, 2018 PACER
73

Order

Feb. 5, 2018 PACER
74

Report and Recommendation

Feb. 5, 2018 PACER
75

Motion for Extension of Time

Feb. 7, 2018 PACER
76

Order

Feb. 12, 2018 PACER
77

Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages

Feb. 27, 2018 PACER
78

Order

Feb. 27, 2018 PACER
79

Objection to Report and Recommendation

March 2, 2018 PACER
80

Objection to Report and Recommendation

March 2, 2018 PACER
81

Reply

March 22, 2018 PACER
82

Reply

March 23, 2018 PACER
84

ORDER declining to adopt 74 Report and Recommendation; denying Plaintiffs' 21 Motion to Certify Class; denying Defendants' 29 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to declaratory and injunctive relief; and denying Defendants' 50 Motion for Summary Judgment. This matter is recommitted to the Magistrate Judge for further pretrial handling. Signed by Honorable Margaret B Seymour on 3/29/2018. (mwal)

March 29, 2018 RECAP
85

Scheduling Order

April 3, 2018 PACER
86

Motion to Certify Class

April 17, 2018 PACER
87

Motion for Reconsideration

April 24, 2018 PACER
88

Motion for Reconsideration

April 26, 2018 PACER
89

Response in Opposition to Motion

April 26, 2018 PACER
90

Notice of Appeal

April 26, 2018 PACER
91

Transmittal Sheet for Notice of Appeal to USCA

April 30, 2018 PACER
92

Assembled Initial Electronic Record Transmitted to 4CCA

May 1, 2018 PACER
93

Response in Opposition to Motion

May 3, 2018 PACER
94

Reply to Response to Motion

May 3, 2018 PACER
95

Letter

May 8, 2018 PACER
97

Reply to Response to Motion

May 10, 2018 PACER
98

Motion to Appear Pro Hac Vice

May 15, 2018 PACER
99

Order

May 15, 2018 PACER
100

Stipulation of Dismissal

May 16, 2018 RECAP
101

Motion to Compel

May 16, 2018 PACER
103

Notice of Hearing

May 30, 2018 PACER
104

Order

May 30, 2018 PACER
105

Notice of Hearing

June 1, 2018 PACER
106

Order on Motion to Compel

June 1, 2018 PACER
107

OPINION AND ORDER denying 87 Motion for Reconsideration ; denying 88 Motion for Reconsideration Signed by Honorable Margaret B Seymour on 7/9/2018.(mdea )

July 10, 2018 RECAP

State / Territory: South Carolina

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Special Collection(s):

Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of Poverty)

Key Dates

Filing Date: June 1, 2017

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

All indigent people who currently owe, or in the future will owe, fines, fees, court costs, assessments, or restitution in cases handled by Lexington County magistrate courts.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Pending

Defendants

Lexington County, South Carolina (Lexington), County

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Equal Protection

Unreasonable search and seizure

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Issues

Reproductive rights:

Fetus Identity

General:

False arrest

Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond

Poverty/homelessness